Seattle sheriff orders staff to work from home to keep them safe from violence at nearby homeless encampment

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SEATTLE, WA – According to reports, a homeless encampment established nearby the King County Courthouse, which the King County Sheriff’s Office is located, has prompted the King County Sheriff to order most of her professional staff to work from home.

The reason for said order by the sheriff is due to the increasing dangers associated with the encampment settled next to the courthouse.

In a memo to King County Sheriff’s Office professional staff shared on August 2nd, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht ordered professional staff to commence working 100% remotely due to the “unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage, and corrections facilities.”

Said order delivered in the memo comes days after a homeless man was arrested for allegedly attempting to rape a seven-month pregnant woman inside of a county courthouse bathroom – which the sheriff’s office operates out of the same courthouse.

City Hall Park, which resides next to the courthouse, has become flooded with homeless individuals, which has resulted in concerning levels of crime stemming from the homeless encampment.

The homeless encampment situated at City Hall Park has recently resulted in a fatal stabbing, an attack against a senior citizen where a homeless man killed the senior’s dog, and countless other instances of assaults and other various crimes.

According to the memo from the sheriff, the staff members ordered to return to remote work are not of the sort that typically interact with members of the public:

“The safety and security of our employees is my top priority. Effectively immediately, due to the unsafe environment around the courthouse, administration, parking garage and corrections facilities, and concerns from labor unions, we are returning to 100% remote telework for professional staff members who do not routinely interact with the public.”

Other KCSO employees that are predominantly public-facing will continue working at the courthouse.

The issues posed by the homeless encampment located at City Hall Park has resulted in 33 superior court judges sending a letter to the City of Seattle, demanding that something be done regarding the safety issues caused by the existence of the encampment near the courthouse.

Sheriff Johanknecht has also reportedly been involved in conversations with county officials to discuss solutions for the matter, as well.

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles is going so far as to propose a sort of land trade with the City of Seattle, where King County would give the City of Seattle some land they own in exchange for the City Hall Park land – so that way King County can remedy the issues plaguing their courthouse.

Councilmember Kohl-Welles has the following to say about the notion of trading land with the city:

“If we were to own the park, then we can make use of it as we see fit, including for security. Maybe the best way to do that is engage in a trade of property so we would acquire City Hall Park and in the process be able to have the City of Seattle receive some property that we own.”

Seattle-based KTTH Radio talk show host Jason Rantz says the most concerning element of the memo sent by Sheriff Johanknecht to her staff is that they aren’t safe while working inside of the building of a law enforcement agency:

“It’s so dangerous in downtown Seattle in and around the courthouse, thanks to the out-of-control homelessness crisis and park that looks like a third-world country, that not even non-commissioned staff working for a law enforcement agency are safe. Staff at the courthouse and jurors, plaintiffs, and defendants are equally unsafe. And the city does nothing.”

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Meanwhile in San Francisco, California, the city’s Department of Homelessness is trying to obtain $20 million to keep several homeless encampments up and running over the next two years.

We at Law Enforcement Today reported on the effort back in June, while also detailing the costs associated with keeping each tent erected annually. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing recently requested $20 million from the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations Committee to keep operations running over the next two fiscal years of six homeless tent encampments.

These six homeless encampments, which support roughly 260 tents, have already raised eyebrows in terms of cost, since they were launched early on in the pandemic and the first year cost approximately $18.2 million.

Back in November of 2018, a San Francisco ballot measure that was meant to address homelessness via increasing taxes managed to pass.

The ballot measure, known as Prop C, estimated that increasing taxes on corporate entities could raise roughly $250 million to $300 million annually to allocate toward combatting homelessness.

And the spoils that were reaped were emblematic of the idiocracy associated with government spending, as the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing managed to craft tent camps in various areas of San Francisco in 2020 that came with an annual cost of roughly $60,000 per tent, per year.

On June 23rd, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing came before the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations Committee and had asked for additional money to keep the tent cities functioning.

As mentioned earlier, these tent encampments came to fruition during the early stages of the pandemic under good intentions in an effort to have vagrants in San Francisco taken out of crowded shelters and into more open-air environments so as to allow practicable social distancing.

But with these six separate encampments, the campsites also had created accessible showers, around the clock security, and meals brought to the encampments. The cost associated with that first year was to the tune of roughly $18.2 million for about 260 tents spread across all six encampments.

In a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, it noted that these tents were costing taxpayers over $60,000 per year, per tent. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly twice the average cost of an apartment within San Francisco for an entire year.

In a nutshell, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing managed to have vagrants sleeping in tents on the streets at just about twice the cost of having these same individuals being afforded the dignity of an apartment.

When Supervisor Ahsha Safai addressed the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s request for $20 million to keep things running for an additional two years, she rightfully voiced concerns over the costs to keep something running that the city is trying to transition out of:

“$15 million in year one for safe sleeping and $5 million in year two for safe sleeping seems like an exorbitant amount for something we’re trying to transition as quickly as possible. When you factor 260 beds at $15 million for year one, that’s $57,000 per tent.”

Gigi Whitley, a Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing staffer, explained to Safai that when reviewing the prior years’ costs of $18.2 million, $1.2 million was for the showers, $3 million was for providing meals on-site, and $13 million was for that 24-hour security.

Whitley acknowledged that security was expensive, but framed it as a means to make sure the vagrants don’t get uppity and leave the “safe sleeping” areas and camp out outside the designated zones:

“Costs that also include things like security and 24-hour staffing – those are expensive costs, you are correct, but those are also necessary so that someone doesn’t leave the site and go into the neighborhood and maybe establish their intent there.”

Keep in mind that a staffer from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing pointed out, indirectly, that it actually costs more to have 24-hour security to make sure people don’t leave designated areas than it would cost to have these 260 tent inhabitors to reside in an actual apartment in San Francisco.

That is certainly some top-notch spending.

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In other reports related to homeless in California, Governor Gavin Newsom managed to have a not-so-pleasant interaction with a vagrant in Oakland earlier in June. 

In a previous report we at Law Enforcement Today brought back earlier in June, it turns out that while the California governor was trying to promote small businesses – he was allegedly assaulted by a local vagrant. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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OAKLAND, CA – A 54-year-old man, who was reported as being a local vagrant, was arrested earlier in June for allegedly assaulting Governor Gavin Newsom while he was visiting downtown Oakland in an effort to promote small businesses in the area.

The incident comes during a time where California is dealing with concerning levels of homelessness that officials are working to address and remedy.

On June 17th, Governor Gavin Newsom was walking down the 700 block of Washington Street in Oakland, making his way over to local businesses such as Beastmode Barbershop and Graffiti Pizza in an effort to promote small businesses.

While walking down the sidewalk, a 54-year-old “aggressive individual” was said to have thrown a water bottle at the governor. A statement provided by the CHP noted the following about the encounter:

“This morning, the Governor was approached by an aggressive individual. Members of the Governor’s security detail removed the Governor from the situation and the individual was arrested by CHP officers.”

The 54-year-old male, who was not identified by name by officials as of this writing, was said to have been booked into the Santa Rita Jail under suspicion of resisting an executive officer and assaulting a public official.

Governor Newsom was reportedly not injured during the episode and was even cited as playing off the incident to nearby reports by suggesting that some people have just have different ways of saying “hello”.

Bail for the unnamed suspect was reportedly set at $35,000 and has an arraignment scheduled for June 21st at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

According to a report on the incident from NBC News, a woman who claimed to be the suspect’s sister described the assailant as a homeless man who has a history of mental illness. This woman claiming to be the suspect’s sister also said that the allegations lodged against her brother are “consistent with his past behavior.”

This alleged assault comes roughly one month after Governor Newsom revealed a plan to allocate $12 billion to combat homelessness within California.

In a statement released from the Governor Newsom’s officer on May 11th, this $12 billion will reportedly come from the $100 billion plan known as the “California Comeback Plan”:

“Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled the second challenge his $100 billion California Comeback Plan will confront – homelessness. Governor Newsom’s $12 billion plan to tackle the issue of homelessness will be the largest investment of its kind in California history. This investment will provide 65,000 people with housing placements, more than 300,000 people with housing stability and create 46,000 new housing units.”

Governor Newsom at the time referenced the previous success of Project Homekey, which that effort saw the likes of hotels being purchased by the state so that they could be converted into housing for those experiencing homelessness:

“Within a year, Homekey did more to address the homelessness and affordable housing crisis than anything that’s been done in decades and became a national model. Now is the time to double down on these successful efforts.”

“The California Comeback Plan invests a historic $12 billion to expand these successful programs and seeks to end family homelessness within five years. That’s the idea behind the Comeback Plan’s homelessness investments – more, faster and with accountability and efficiency stitched into the fabric of these new investments.”

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